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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Rewarding good behavior works -- but what about the love of learning?

Awarding "points" for good classroom behavior improves behavior -- without destroying intrinsic motivation, writes Emily Oster on her Parent Data Substack. Paying for higher test scores does not.

Rewards may built good habits that last when the incentive is gone, she writes. Few teenagers expect M&Ms for using the toilet. (As a young child, my husband met a boy at the playground who'd regularly go to the "laboratory"and come back with a Lifesaver. John dreamed of finding the Lifesaver lab. It may explain his interest in science.)

Some teachers rely on incentives -- stickers, snacks, "kid-led Kahoots" -- while others say "I reward them with an education," writes Madeline Will in Education Week.

Lozetta Hayden, who teaches in a Delaware middle school, "has created an elaborate class economy," writes Will. Her sixth-graders can earn "Hayden dollars" for effort and good behavior, then spend their earnings at the class store. Stocked mostly with donated items, the store carries "everything from extra pencils or sugarless gum to big-ticket items, like Amazon Fire tablets or a bicycle." Also available are activities, such as "a chance to use the classroom PlayStation or the air hockey table." Her adult children teach cooking (daughter) and saxophone (son) for Hayden dollars.

On the flip side, "Hayden fines students 500 Hayden bucks for every curse word they use," writes Will.

It's empowering for students, Hayden tells Will, and it teaches them math skills. "Sometimes, she’ll adjust the prices in the classroom shop to teach a mini-lesson on supply and demand or inflation."

It sounds like a lot of work for the teacher, but perhaps it ultimately makes her job easier.

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JK Brown
JK Brown
Feb 13

Schooling does little to instill a love of learning in students. I realized late in life my reluctance to pick up any of the classics to read despite being an avid reader was sourced in the hell of high school English classes.

“Shakespeare did not intend for his work to be used to torture minors.”

Louis Rossman

And it is a long known problem with how they mixed learning to write (rhetoric) with the need to give validity to the literary theorists of the English department

Nothing can be more hypocritical than for young people who are still in the rudiments of literature to be forced into pronouncing objective judgments as to the worth of literature. Students instinctively feel this, and resent all attempts…
Feb 14
Replying to

A high school English teacher in Montgomery County Maryland once had a really good essay in the Washington Post about how bad literature is taught in high school. She described it as doing an autopsy on a novel where the novel is broken down for its parts and each part is examined.

In addition, Orson Scott Card wrote this about people trying to teach his novel.

QUESTION: Several readers have asked this question: What is the theme of Ender's Game?


I can't help you at all, because, in my opinion, a good novel won't have "a theme." That's what essays have. Novels have a STORY. If your teacher is asking you to find themes in a novel, to…

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